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Train bosses pledge to cut disruption on Norwich to London line at weekends and Christmas

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio.  Photo: Bill Smith

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

Train bosses have pledged to slash the amount of planned disruptive engineering work and the need for bus replacement services on the Norwich to London line this Christmas and at weekends in 2013.

Network Rail and Greater Anglia have promised that for the first time in years there will only be minor disruption during the Christmas and New Year period, with no complete line closures, enabling passengers to make uninterrupted journeys over the festive holiday.

Under the new improvement works schedule for 2013, only two Saturdays - March 16 and 23 - on the main line are affected by any bus journeys, and there are no bus replacements from the end of March until early October.

Train bosses said that in 2013, there will be just seven weekends of planned disruptive engineering work. Since 2007, there have been on average 30 weekends a year requiring bus replacement services.

The news has been welcomed by MPs and passenger groups.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: “I certainly welcome a reduction in engineering work. It’s been a very long-term programme of major disruption to travellers, particularly to holiday travellers. It has been very frustrating for passengers, especially over the Christmas period, when people have been trying to meet up with friends and loved ones. If the message from Network Rail is that a lot of the hard work has been done, and there will be less disruption, that’s very positive news.”

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, also welcomed the news. She said: “In the long-term what we want on the Norwich to London line is a much more reliable and faster service, and one that is quality. We don’t deserve to fall behind in Norfolk, so we are campaigning for the improvement in the long-term. In the short-term any measures to improve the weekend service are really welcome.”

Rod Lock, secretary of the East Suffolk Travellers’ Association, which represents rail and bus passengers in the Beccles, Lowestoft and Halesworth area, added: “It’s very welcome but it has not come too soon. It has been promised before, but I’m glad to hear the news.”

The decision is the result of an alliance between Network Rail and Greater Anglia to provide an improved train service and achieve a better balance between delivering infrastructure improvements and minimising disruption to passengers.

Dave Ward, Network Rail route managing director for Anglia, said: “In the last few years, we have done a huge amount of work investing millions of pounds to renew crucial parts of this line to benefit passengers for years to come.

“We are now in a position to change how we deliver these improvements. This change will bring real benefits to passengers providing them with a better weekend train service.

“We expect it will have a positive impact on the whole region, boosting economic growth as more people use the railway at weekends.

“There is still a huge amount of work to do to improve things further but we have found a much better balance, which I hope passengers will welcome.”

Ruud Haket, Greater Anglia managing director, said it would encourage more people to take the train and boost the region’s economy.

He said: “I am delighted that our positive partnership and alliance with Network Rail, which is a key element of the Greater Anglia franchise, has enabled us to take a fresh look at the scheduling of infrastructure works to put passenger needs first whilst maintaining important improvements. As a result, our customers will benefit from more seamless weekend services.”

Network Rail has upgraded complex parts of the line between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford in the last five years, which often required weekend closures. Part of this work included identifying and replacing 6,000 key pieces of equipment ahead of the Olympics, which will increase the long-term resilience of the line. Coupled with new technology being developed that has not previously been available to renew overhead lines, this increased resilience enabled Network Rail to review the improvement works programme.

The seven weekends next year when Network Rail will be carrying out planned disruptive engineering work, where buses will be required are: Sunday, February 24, Saturday, March 2 reduced service but no buses, Sunday, March 3, Saturday, March 9 reduced service but no buses, Sunday, March 10, Saturday, March 16, Sunday, March 17, Saturday, March 23, Sunday, March 24, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, and then no disruptive work until Sunday, October 6.

david.bale2@archant.co.uk

If you’re looking to take advantage of the improved Norfolk to London weekend rail services, why not check out some rail-inclusive London Theatre breaks?

Take the train to London, see a show, and spend the night in a comfortable hotel.

There is a range of top shows on offer including The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia – all from as little as £139 per person for the travel, hotel and show. Two and three-day packages are available.

Holidays are organised by Newmarket Travel – to find out more visit www.edp24.co.uk/travel or call the Reader Travel Shop on: 01603 772172

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